‘Wind River’ is as Chilling as its Frozen Setting

Wind_River_(2017_film)It’s hard to be a writer and be a name people instantly recognize, but alongside Aaron Sorkin I think Taylor Sheridan is well on his way to doing just that.

“Wind River” follows an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who is called in to investigate a possible murder on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming after a body is found by a US Fish and Wildlife Service tracker (Jeremy Renner). Taylor Sheridan directs from his own script.

I enjoyed both of Taylor Sheridan’s first two scripts, “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water,” I though they both established a tone and used their atmosphere incredibly well and only get better the more you think about them. “Wind River” (technically not Sheridan’s directorial debut since he helmed a micro-budget horror film called “Vile” in 2011) is more of the same from the “Sons of Anarchy” actor-turned-writer, as it puts us in the vast, freezing tundra with as much information as our characters, and leaves you shaking from the cold and thrills alike.

Sheridan doesn’t write dialogue as entertaining as Aaron Sorkin or make any character likeable no matter how selfish or narcissistic they are, but he does have a way to make every line push along his slow-burning plot. Here he gives us a handful of characters we sympathize with for various reasons, and like the dirt of Mexico or the dust of Texas, Sheridan makes the snowy mountains of Wyoming a character within itself.

Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen take a break from being Avengers and both turn in subtly solid work as two members of the law. Olsen’s FBI agent is a by-the-book Las Vegas-stationed woman who is somewhat out of her element (she arrives to the stormy Reservation with a single coat and no winter hat), while Renner plays a dad with a few secrets and skills he’d like to keep buried. They play well off each other and even if there aren’t characters as entertaining as Benicio del Toro or as gravitas as Jeff Bridges, the cast as a whole still do the script justice.

I hate to keep comparing this to Sheridan’s other works but it is almost like the man is becoming a brand. Like the other two films he wrote this is shot gorgeously by Ben Richardson and features some great musical moments from composers Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, furthering the absorbing feel.

What really holds the film back from being *great* is the way it handles its third act. Like “The Hateful Eight” this features a mystery and presents a small handful of suspects, but never really gives the audience any clues to try and figure things out on their own; the facts are simply handed to us and it is a bit disappointing because it really feels sudden.

That being said, while I wasn’t a huge fan of how the film handled its reveals and revelations, there is a two minute segment in here that is one of my favorite scenes of 2017, and it is clear Sheridan learned a lot from being on the sets of his previous two films.

“Wind River” is a very good movie with an engrossing setting and sharp writing, and while it is uneasy to watch at some points it is a fine directorial effort by a man who is hopefully only getting started in Hollywood and a film I pray gets the attention it deserves, both at the box office and come awards season.

Critics Rating: 8/10

The Weinstein Company

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